Although Christians agree on many things, we also disagree on many things. Most of us say that Holy Scripture is important to us, that we do our best to follow the Word, that God has given us scripture as a guide. Sometimes, we say that if we all simply followed what the Bible says, we’d agree on everything. Saying that overlooks the fact, however, that all of us pick and choose when it comes to scripture.
You can almost open the Bible to any passage of scripture and find a place where we pick and choose. To me, one of the best examples of this is found in I Corinthians 12 where Paul provides instructions about spiritual gifts.
“Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed…There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” (I Corinthians 12:1-11)
The underlying premise for this scripture is unity in diversity. The one Spirit gives different gifts to the members of Christ’s body to be used together to build up the one body of Christ for the common good. The irony is that such unity rarely happens, because of our picking and choosing.
We generally agree that the Spirit gives us gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and faith. Then a line is drawn to facilitate our picking and choosing. On one side are those who believe gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues are still available today. I Corinthians 12 doesn’t except out any of the enumerated gifts.
On the other side are those who don’t believe these gifts still exist. I Corinthians 13 says that these gifts will pass away or are complete when that which that which is perfect has come. And what is that? For some, it is the canon of Holy Scripture.
It’s difficult for me to find scripture that clearly supports either point of view. No matter. We’ll fight ’til the cows come home about spiritual gifts. And this is only one example of our propensity to pick and choose.
I don’t raise this to start a fight. I raise it to ask two questions. Isn’t it possible for us to have different opinions that result from the spiritual gifts we have and still be one body? Regardless of what we pick and choose, shouldn’t we ultimately choose the more excellent way Paul writes about in I Corinthians 13–the way of love?
We all agree on that, don’t we? And that unites us.